Thinking about sports trading cards

Yesterday, at the Target store I picked up two boxes of the 2021-22 Upper Deck, “NHL Star Rookies Hockey Trading Card Blaster Box.” This one is a nice box of sports trading cards to pick up as it has exactly what it says it has in the box. Those boxes each contained 25 star rookies from around the league. It’s not a wild box of trading cards to break open where something super valuable might be in the box. This is a predictable box to open like opening a complete set box. In the late 1980’s and 1990’s opening packs of trading cards was a big part of my adventures. A lot of those cards that were opened and sorted are sitting behind me right now in my office. Unfortunately, the vast majority of those cards were from what they call the junk wax era of the hobby. Overprinting did help get the cards into every grocery store and make the hobby accessible to anybody at a very low price point. 

These days getting sports trading cards is a very different proposition. I have active collections of ungraded Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Chiefs autograph cards. A lot of them are on card autographs, but sometimes I just buy them for the look and end up with on card stickers. Those cards for the most part I keep in a binder that I can look at from time to time in my office. My larger active collection these days includes graded George Brett cards. I have been slowly building a complete vertical of common George Brett cards in PSA/BGS. I generally don’t chase the insert and one off cards, but sometimes they are very tempting. All three of those collections are very targeted and are not the kind of thing you would get from opening a single pack of trading cards. For the most part my current collecting efforts involve watching and participating in auctions. Generally, I’m just hoping things sell at the lowest possible price point. 

My bidding strategy is highly transparent. On eBay I generally will just place a single bid for the maximum value I’m willing to pay for the sports trading card up for auction. That pretty much means that my bids to wins ratio is not very close. I put a lot more bids in on items as the first or a very early bidder and sometimes I win that auction and most of the time somebody else outbids me to win the item. That is an outcome that I’m perfectly comfortable with occurring. It lets me pretty comfortably watch and understand the bottom of the market. As a hobby, this is one where I don’t really want to be in the top end of the market. Some of the sales at the highest end are shocking. Please keep in mind that I’m a buy and hold collector of sports trading cards. I still have the vast majority of cards acquired during my collecting efforts. When I get cards graded it is generally just for my personal collection to make long term storage better. 

When the grading card companies lower prices I’ll submit a block of autographed cards mostly to have them authenticated and put in storage capsules for my personal collection. I just like having graded cards. They do take up more space at about a 1:20 ratio compared to just raw cards in a box. However, I enjoy bringing them all together into a collection. That is the value they have to me as a set of things. For the most part they are just a reminder of memories of specific players and moments in sports that bring me some type of joy. They are the kind of distraction that a solid hobby brings you from the normal routines and practices of day to day efforts.

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